Exceptional Care, Exceptional Place
A unique home for medically fragile children proves that sometimes love conquers all, even the gravest conditions.
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Despite sometimes dire predictions, many of the children develop far beyond expectations. One toddler entered ECC seriously undersized and unable to tolerate any stimulation, Martin says. A year later she could walk, follow simple directions, say a dozen words and understand many more. She bounces happily to the beat of Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl.”
“Some kids come in and double in size within a few months,” Martin says. “There has been no change in their diet. They are just eating more. The only explanation is love.”
“Love is an amazing thing,” says play therapist Donna Hartzell. “It gives the children the will to live and to try harder.”
Valetha Richards and her fiance, Kevin Haile of Wilmington, have seen their son, 2-year-old Devone, make tremendous progress at ECC. Devone had been a perfectly normal toddler who was beginning to walk at age 1 when several seizures damaged his brain. He was left with seriously impaired vision, and he was unable to walk or to swallow food.
“If you had seen him, you wouldn’t have thought he could make it,” Richards says. “The doctors said that all we could do was pray. They did not know what he would be able to accomplish. He just cried continuously.”
That was in June 2008. Devone has come a long way since. “He can calm himself down, and he responds to music and to talking,” Richards says.
Before ECC opened, local children who needed long-term or transitional care remained hospitalized or were sent to a handful of out-of-state pediatric facilities, most often to the Voorhees Pediatric Facility’s Residential Program in New Jersey. “Kids would go to these facilities, but families would not be able to visit often because of the distance and the lack of public transportation,” Woomer says. “It is much better now that local patients and their families have a facility closer to home.”
Most of ECC’s residents are Delawareans, though some come from nearby Maryland and Pennsylvania.
The staff at ECC encourages families to spend as much time as possible with their children. They can visit in comfortable sitting areas, participate in therapy, and eat meals family-style in the dining room with residents, staff and other families. One long-term resident has sleepovers in her ECC room several times a month with her mother and siblings, says Kareylenn Hammond, director of social services and development at ECC.
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